Association of neighborhood crime with asthma and asthma morbidity among Mexican American children in Chicago, Illinois

Background: There is increasing evidence that neighborhood-level factors, in addition to individual-level factors, may contribute directly or indirectly to childhood asthma by affecting environmental and lifestyle factors. Exposure to neighborhood crime and violence has been associated with poor health outcomes, especially among underserved and minority populations, and its effect on respiratory health is an area of active research.

Objective: To examine the association of residential neighborhood crime with asthma and asthma-related outcomes among Mexican American children.

Methods: This cross-sectional study was conducted with parents of 2,023 Mexican American children. We derived measures of neighborhood (census tract) violent, property, and drug abuse crime and used multilevel generalized estimating equations to test associations of neighborhood crime counts with respiratory conditions.

Results: In multiple regression models, a 1-SD increase in neighborhood property crimes significantly increased the odds of lifetime asthma, lifetime wheezing, lifetime emergency department (ED) visits attributable to asthma or wheezing, and lifetime hospitalization attributable to asthma or wheezing by 25%, 18%, 44%, and 62%, respectively. A 1-SD elevation in neighborhood violent crime was positively and significantly associated with 21% and 57% higher odds of lifetime wheezing and ED visits, respectively. We also observed 13% and 44% significantly increased odds of lifetime wheezing and ED visits, respectively, for a 1-SD increase in drug abuse crime. These findings were not explained or modified by individual- and neighborhood-level covariates.

Conclusion: Higher neighborhood crime was associated with greater odds of asthma and asthma morbidity in Mexican American children.